Bakhtin and Melendez re-enact Donaire v Narvaez as Russian gains decision over a defensive shell

4 Nov

Petra Kirsch – Gelsenkirchen

Alexander Bakhtin won a wide decision over Luis Melendez at the Khodynka Ice Palace in Moscow, Russia on November 4. Melendez fought negatively, was loathe to engage and maintained a defensive shell for the ten scheduled rounds yet the only thing separating this bout from the similar one that was contested between Nonito Donaire and Omar Narvaez was that Bakhtin actually had Melendez down and out – twice – in round three yet couldn’t/wouldn’t finish.

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Kirsch’s scorecard

Round 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Melendez 9 9
7 9 9 9 9 9 9 9

10 10 10 10 10
10 10 10 10 10

Judges verdict: Bakhtin by way of unanimous decision.

Bizarrely, Melendez adopted an ultra-defensive shell as soon as the bell chime signaled the beginning of action in round one. He kept his gloves up, blocked on his forearms and his mitts and appeared to be like a southpaw version of Omar Narvaez, who went 12 rounds with unified bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire in Madison Square Garden, New York City, recently. Because of the Colombian’s negative approach, highly-fancied Russian – Alexander Bakhtin – was able to go about his business like it was a sparring session.

Bakhtin had everything going for him… he owned the centre of the ring, was able to tee up on his shots by just lingering out his lead jabbing hand out and smashing a right cross through Melendez’s upright and had ample time to think about his shot selection. On occasion, rare occasions, Melendez would retaliate but the intent in his shots was lacking. Even though Melendez was a: a static target and b: an inactive puncher, Bakhtin was not throwing with a reckless abandon, more a methodical unleashing.

Melendez took a knee at the beginning of round three yet, even though he was ready to accept a count, Bakhtin followed up by illegally clobbering his opponent twice – both shots went unpunished by the referee. Midway through the round, Melendez was again on the canvas, this time because of a body punch. For the rest of the round, Bakhtin turned his man, picked his punches and showed patience when he could have perhaps showed aggression in order to finish a tie that desperately needed ending.

The most exciting generated in this super bantamweight bout was not from the fighting, but the wavy-haired sultry ring girls who danced provocatively to the beats of Ministry of Sound-style dance tunes. When boxing resumed, the crowd noise quietened. Bakhtin, a fast-fisted pugilist, had the hand speed and power to force the 31-year-old leftie from Cartagena to take a permanent count but instead it appeared he wanted rounds as he did not change gears, up the tempo or pressure his man.

There signs that the 122lb clash had the look of a distance fight in round four continued in round five as there was little action to inspire the Ice Palace crowd into excitement and the action that was there, appeared all one-sided in favour of Bakhtin, however, the Russian had minor blood stained under his nostril – an indication that some of Melendez’s shots were sneaking through.

Rounds six and seven were ones of frustration for the fans at the gate. When it came to fighting, Melendez was completely frigid as he kept his shell turgid. For Bakhtin, there is a presumption that he could enhance his work-rate and secure a stoppage, but because he wasn’t, the question that needed to be asked was ‘why?’

And the answer to that could have been the awkward portside posturing of Melendez which had moments of lining up perfect, or ending up square.

Another flaw in Bakhtin’s offence was that his shots became too predictable. He did not vary his targets like Ismayl Sillakh had done against Ali Ismailov in the fight that preceded this as Sillakh jabbed to the upstairs, midsection, hooked to the sides and uppercutted to the chin. For Bakhtin, his flurries ended with the second shot. If he attached a punch onto his left jab it would be the right hand. But these were far too often parried on Melendez’s forearms.

In the eighth round, Bakhtin remembered what had caused the damage to Melendez earlier in the fight and targeted – and landed – a punishing shot to the 31-year-old’s liver. A brief moment of unrelenting flurrying when Melendez was against the ropes was interrupted as the Colombian swung back. Showing his surprise, Melendez was forced onto the backfoot in order to evade any incoming return fire.

Needing a knockout to win, Melendez did not even go for the stoppage in the tenth and final round. Instead, the better work came from Bakhtin who worked his jab in a casual manner and began using a left hook as his lead punch, also.

The wait for the official announcement was a mere formality as Bakthin scooped the unanimous decision. With the points triumph, his record now stood at 28-0-0, 11ko while Melendez stooped to 31-7-1, 22ko.

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